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As Gatwick grapples with drones, Canadian military eyes ways to drone-proof airspace

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The key to detecting tiny drones spying on military bases or intruding into an airport’s airspace could be to use an existing TV signal.

Canada’s Department of National Defence is exploring using regular television signals to create a radar system that would detect flying intruders the size of an insect, as well as using other drone detection technologies.

The military is worried about spying drones collecting real-time video of its operations as the machines become smaller, cheaper and more expendable. 

And the chaos caused by drones flying into airspace at Britain’s Gatwick Airport this week show the small devices can have big consequences.  

As drone technology has evolved, drone detection techniques need to keep pace. Some drones have even been fashioned to look like birds to help them better blend into the environment. Others are equipped with gripping claws allowing them to perch on a tree limb or ledge for better surveillance, according to a reference document written in 2016 by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), a DND agency.

“Small drones are increasingly being used for spying/reconnaissance applications. They are small in size and hard to detect,” said the document titled, Counter-measures against drone surveillance.

“They can pose real and significant threats to military operations,” it stated.

This is a drone made to look like a female falcon, but it’s not used for spying. It’s to drive real birds away from the Edmonton International Airport. (John Robertson/CBC) 

How radar detection system works

To counter that threat, DND has been researching how to better detect spying drones with DRDC examining several different technologies.

According to the document, one of the best solutions found was to create a passive radar detection system using TV signals.

The system works by monitoring the constant TV signals in the air. When these signals hit an object, they can be detected by the system. 

“Firstly, TV signals transmitted by major TV channels are powerful enough for detecting drones, even very small ones,” said the DRDC document. 

TV signals transmitted by major TV channels are powerful enough for detecting drones, even very small ones.– Document from Defence Research and Development Canada, an agency of DND

“Since TV transmission towers have been a fixture in the urban landscape for a long time, people are used to and accepting their presence.

“Secondly, TV signal is free of charge: there is essentially no cost for tapping into the TV signal transmission.

“Thirdly, TV signals are transmitted continuously 24/7, making it an ideal source for radar surveillance application.” 

The researchers suggest the TV transmitter at Camp Fortune in Ottawa could be used to monitor high-value infrastructure in a 17-kilometre radius. It would even be able to pick up insect-sized drones operating within a five-kilometre radius around the Ottawa International Airport.  

Battery-operated drones with a range greater than 50 kilometres are already available on the commercial hobby market, according to Defence Research and Development Canada, a DND agency. (Sarawut Chamsaeng/Shutterstock)

Other ways of detecting drones

But the technology does have its flaws. Any radar system that can pick up small drones can pick up birds as well, both of which have similar radar signatures that could result in false alarms. 

However, the document suggests this problem may soon be solved by artificial intelligence algorithms that can tell the difference between a bird and a drone by analyzing the different ways they move. 

There’s no perfect solution. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.– Charles Vidal, a research engineer with the National Research Council

The military isn’t alone in looking to develop better ways of detecting drones. The National Research Council of Canada has been examining drone detection technology for the last three years. 

It has looked at a range of different ways to locate drones, including advanced radar that’s good at detecting small objects, acoustic technology that can recognize drone sounds and a radio frequency detection system that tracks down the radio signals exchanged between a drone and its operator.

Charles Vidal is a research engineer with the National Research Council. (Noémie Moukanda/Radio-Canada)

Engineers also explored using thermal imaging cameras to highlight a drone’s heat signature and advanced cameras that can spot drones from far away.

“There’s no perfect solution. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses,” said Charles Vidal, a research engineer with the National Research Council. 

Much demand from other sectors

Vidal said there’s a lot of demand for this kind of technology from many different sectors.

Industrial sites like oil refineries want to keep drones away from dangerous equipment. Even jails and prisons want to locate drones to keep them from dropping contraband into their institutions.  

But airports contacted by CBC News haven’t embraced these new technologies, even though the number of drones spotted too close to airports and aircraft in Canada more than tripled between 2014 and 2017 from 38 to 135. There have been 95 incidents reported to Transport Canada this year, as of Nov. 30. 

Toronto Pearson International Airport said in a statement earlier this month that it is not currently investigating the use of drone detection systems. The spokesperson went on to say that drones are “not much of an issue” around the airport at present. 

However, it will continue to monitor drone activity near the airport and respond accordingly. 

Vidal says companies that run industrial sites are interested in ways to detect drones to keep them away from dangerous areas. (FS11/Shutterstock)

The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is taking a similar approach. It’s monitoring the availability and usage of devices to detect drone activity near the airport, but hasn’t yet used that technology.

In 2016, a plane en route to Billy Bishop had a close call with a drone and had to take evasive action to avoid it. Two flight attendants ended up with minor injuries.

Under Canadian law, drones can’t be flown within 5.6 kilometres of airports or 1.9 kilometres of heliports. Endangering aircraft is a particularly serious offence that can carry fines of up to $25,000 or possible prison time. 

In Nova Scotia, a spokesperson for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport said it doesn’t make public what kind of detection technology it does or does not have. 

Still, Vidal said there are others willing to adopt the new drone detection technologies.

“Different organizations are already performing pilot projects where they will deploy these solutions for either a short period of time for testing and evaluation,” he said. “These systems are getting deployed more and more.”   

Different organizations are already performing pilot projects where they will deploy these solutions for either a short period of time for testing and evaluation.– Charles Vidal

   

The DRDC document recommends hands-on testing as well. 

Its authors wanted the DRDC to start an in-house project to develop prototype detection systems.

The DND has not said what kind of technology it has adopted or might adopt to detect drones. 

No one from the department would agree to an interview. 

In an emailed statement, the department said it will continue to examine the threats drones pose and will keep evaluating existing drone detection systems and countermeasures, including “potential physical, electromagnetic and other protection improvements.”  

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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